In Depth

Networks, Web Content Providers Still Keen on CES

NBC, Sony Among Companies Broadcasting Shows Live From Convention

Despite a shortage of high-powered programmers as keynote speakers at January’s Consumer Electronics Show, television networks and Internet content providers have big plans to produce a number of shows at the massive convention’s 2009 edition in Las Vegas.

Consumer Electronics Show

Though the economy has turned south and the CES lineup is less content-centric than in years past, companies including Discovery, NBC, MySpace and Sony Pictures Television have not scaled back their CES plans. Instead, they are sending the same number of executives as in years past and, in many cases, are telecasting from the show floor.

Their plans suggest that in just a few short years of reaching out to television programmers, CES has earned a regular spot in the trade show rotation for TV executives.

Also, the networking opportunities afforded by CES, which cuts a wide swathe across many industries, may be too good to pass up, particularly in a down economy.

“Television executives will go anyway, especially because they are all nervous about trying to survive in a recession,” said James McQuivey, analyst with Forrester Research. “The Internet TV guys will go hoping to make deals, the networks will go to see what devices they’ll be able to distribute through, and the consumer electronics makers will be there to meet with both of the other groups.”

As it did last year, NBC Universal will broadcast “Today,” “NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams” and “Access Hollywood” live from the show floor.

Sony Pictures Television will shoot 10 episodes of “Jeopardy!” on an 18,000-square-foot set on the convention floor that can accommodate 600 audience members. Sony Chairman-CEO Howard Stringer is among the event’s keynoters.

Discovery is slated to shoot two Science Channel programs at CES, including a one-hour CES special and an episode of the network’s new series “Brink.” In addition, Discovery will send online programming and technology executives, as it has in years past.

MySpace TV also plans to send executives to the show, as do other Internet programmers.

“In addition to the big plans that NBC Universal and Sony Pictures Television have for CES, the full value chain of the content community attends CES, resulting in nearly 9,000 entertainment industry attendees at the 2008 CES,” CES spokeswoman Tara Dunion said. She added that digital entertainment will remain a focus of the 2009 show.

Keynoters slated for the show include executives from Microsoft, Sony, Ford and Intel, while Anne Sweeney, Disney-ABC Television Group president, will lead an “industry insider” session.
Some TV players are scaling back, though. Starz will send about two dozen executives from technology and affiliate sales, about a dozen less than in recent years.

The network doesn’t have a major new broadband product to launch at the show this year, explained Starz spokesman Eric Becker. In 2006, Starz introduced its Vongo online movie download service at CES. The consumer portion of that service was shuttered earlier this year, though Vongo is still available to affiliates.